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The Seabury Tides

The Seabury Tides

“E mau ana o Lahaina” (Lahaina will endure)

AP photo/Mengshin Lin
200-unit affordable housing property construction in Lahaina

With the seven-month anniversary of the Lahaina wildfires taking place on April 8th, it is with high urgency to continue spreading awareness of the housing crisis displaced Lahaina residents are now facing.

This housing crisis is nothing new for the valley isle, as plans to remedy the crisis have yet to be fulfilled within the last few years. According to the Maui Now, the Maui County Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan (MCCAHP), which aimed to build 5,000 affordable homes for local people in five years, is already behind on meeting that deadline. As of the article’s publish date of March 4, 2023, 675 homes were being built and another 943 homes were approved for construction. That leaves roughly 3,000 homes needed to be constructed in under three years. Given the current track they are on, this plan is simply not feasible within the limited time the MCCAHP has given themselves to complete the project. 

Despite the delay of the MCCAHP, the tragedy of the wildfires have motivated the state of Hawai’i and the county of Maui to implement a new housing plan, known as the Maui Interim Housing Plan (MIHP). With currently 1,400-plus households that remain housed in more than 30 hotels throughout Maui, the MIHP (working alongside FEMA) is “committing $500 million to create a pool of more than 3,000 stable housing units with 18-month commitments.” The collective goal of the organization is to move all individuals and families who are in short-term hotels into “long term stable housing” by July 1. 

“We want families to know there is a long-term future for them on Maui—and it starts with providing housing stability right now,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen had told the media. 

According to Hawai’i Public Radio, households eligible for FEMA reimbursement will get four chances to accept an intermediate housing placement and those who are ineligible will get two chances. If the household does not accept any of those options, they will have eight days to find their own housing, or begin paying the cost of their stay at the hotel.

As stated by FEMA, “eligible families for the FEMA housing program include survivors who complete their FEMA application and provide the necessary documentation reflecting significant damage to their primary residence will be placed on a waiting list.” Some cases such as survivors living in public shelters, tents or other unsafe housing are typically considered priority cases for receiving FEMA housing. 

Some of the reasons why people have not accepted these intermediate housing offers are because “it would not accommodate family pets, accessibility issues or it was not in West Maui — where their school or work are,” according to Hawai’i Public Radio.  

To remedy the issues of families rejecting the intermediate housing offers, FEMA should listen to the voices of the people of Lahaina to ensure they are getting the resources and accommodations they need in this time of despair. In order to achieve this, FEMA should discuss the logistics of eligibility and rules concerning their housing plans with active leaders in the Lahaina community. Accommodating pets, larger family household sizes, and individuals with specific needs are all things FEMA should keep in mind when creating accommodating housing for these displaced families. 

Conclusively, it is evident that FEMA is trying to be flexible with providing exceptional housing for affected individuals, as there are currently 597 FEMA-ineligible households, but that number will continue to be negotiated. In the last month, it’s dropped by about 200 households according to Hawai’i Public Radio. If FEMA is able to continue this path of accommodation for Lahaina residents by listening to their voices, we are on the right track as a community to continue rebuilding historic Lahaina and the loving community it always embodied. 

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About the Contributor
Tiara Dorn
Tiara Dorn, Staff Writer
Tiara is a senior at Seabury Hall, with a passion for reporting exciting events. She loves to educate herself about what is happening in the world and hopes to capture Seabury’s student life and athletic events through captivating stories.